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Getting started on ancient Greek
Getting started on ancient Greek

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8 Alphabetical order

As well as learning to recognise the letters, it is useful to be able to recite the alphabet, from alpha to omega. Not only will this help to reinforce your knowledge of the letter names, it will also assist later when looking up words in a dictionary.

Activity 9 Comparing alphabets

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Look again at the Greek letters, and the order of the alphabet. Are there any that seem to be in an unexpected position when compared with English?


The order of Greek letters is very close to the order of the English alphabet. But students are often caught out by:

  • ‘zeta’ (ζ / Ζ) and ‘xi’ (ξ / Ξ), which, from the standpoint of English, look misplaced
  • letters with no English counterpart, like ‘eta or ‘phi’. Memorising the jingles ‘zeta-eta-theta’ and ‘phi-chi-psi-omega’ can help overcome most of the difficulties.

Think about the best way for you to learn the order of the alphabet. You might choose to learn it in chunks, for example in four groups of six letters. Or perhaps you would find it easier to learn everything at once. Whichever approach you take, it will likely be a few days or weeks before you really master it. Keep in mind that spreading this study across a few short learning sessions will likely be more productive than one long one.

If you like, you can test your progress with this by using the ‘Sequence’ option on the Introducing Ancient Greek [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] OU website from Activity 8.

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